Tag: storage

Three Island Nations Are Ready for Renewable Energy

Powering and fueling societies by harvesting solar, wind and other clean, renewable energy resources makes good sense anywhere, anytime – especially now that technical performance has improved and costs have dropped so dramatically. Nowhere is this more true than it is for small island nations where energy costs are high and human populations, not to mention ecosystems and natural resources, fragile and threatened.

Releasing its Renewables Readiness Assessment (RRA) reports for three South Pacific island nations – Fiji, the Marshall Islands and Vanuatu – IRENA (International Renewable Energy Agency), concludes that tapping into solar, wind, geothermal, marine, biomass and biofuel energy would not only meet electricity needs, it would reduce energy costs, create gainful employment, broaden energy access, and set these and other island nations firmly on the path towards sustainable energy self-sufficiency.

Though very different in terms of geography and geology, the three small island nations are blessed with an abundance of renewable energy resources but have only recently launched efforts to harness them for power. 

The Lessons Coal and Electricity Markets of the Past Can Offer Solar+Storage Markets Today

The path to scaling up clean energy technologies like solar+storage sometimes can seem like unchartered territory. It can be challenging to figure out the best strategies to develop large, mainstream markets for clean energy technologies. So, it’s good to know that we’ve been on this path before, and that energy transitions of the past can provide some lessons for the future.

Competition in Booming Energy Storage Market Continues To Heat Up

Australia, the sunniest continent, is luring solar battery suppliers from Tesla Motors Inc. to LG Corp. as the global roll out of the technology for home and business power storage gathers pace.

At stake is a domestic market that could be worth A$24 billion ($18 billion), according to Morgan Stanley. Australia leads the world in putting solar panels on roofs, and by 2040, about one in two homes are forecast to rely on sun power.

Elon Musk’s Tesla plans early next year to bring its new batteries to Australia, which will join Germany as its first two markets outside the U.S. LG Chem will offer new technology to Australian homes in August, while Panasonic Corp. plans to begin selling its batteries in the country in October.

“Australia has all the criteria that you would look for — high sunshine, high energy prices and low financing costs,” Michael Parker, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. in Hong Kong, said by phone. “It’s a good test market.”

With solar power set to draw $3.7 trillion in investment through 2040, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, interest in power storage is surging.

LG Chem wants to capture 30 percent of the Australian market, the South Korean company said in an e-mail response to questions. The industry could could grow 15-fold in the next two years to more than 30,000 storage systems, it said.

Storage Units

Samsung SDI Co., meanwhile, is testing its storage units with Australian retailer Origin Energy Ltd., which expects to offer the products to customers later this year, and AU Optronics Corp. of Taiwan is working with AGL Energy Ltd.

Government subsidies and falling prices fueled a wave of growth in solar panel installations in Australia, and the country is set to see further expansion. About 6 million, or half of Australian homes, are forecast to have solar systems by 2040, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

“The ability to store the energy that’s generated by solar is a huge opportunity within this market,” Heath Walker, Tesla’s marketing manager in Melbourne, said by phone. In coming months, the company plans to unveil battery partnerships with utilities or solar developers in Australia, he said.

Battery storage does face obstacles, though, with the cost and the size of the systems needed to maintain a reliable power source deterring some consumers, the Grattan Institute found.

Falling Tariffs

“Everybody says it’s an emerging market, but I’m not sure many people have bought batteries yet,” Origin’s Managing Director Grant King said in an interview. “Will we see a wholesale migration of customers off the grid because of batteries? My answer is no.”

Declining battery costs, surging electricity prices and falling tariffs for feeding excess power to the grid could drive storage, the Australian Energy Market Operator found.

Battery storage will allow homes with solar panels to store excess electricity for later use, reducing peak power consumption and potentially energy costs, Panasonic said.

“Storage is coming,” Panasonic’s local Managing Director Paul Reid said in a June 2 interview. “There may be things that impact the speed of the roll out, but it will dramatically change the landscape of the energy sector in Australia.”

Listen Up: Pope Calls for the Replacement of Fossil Fuels, Renewable Energy and Solar Subsidies

We’re talking about religion this week. Did I get your attention? How about if we talk about climate change, more renewable energy, dirty fossil fuels and solar subsidies? Okay, we’ve already covered these topics. But now the Pope has chimed in with his “On Care For Our Common Home” Encyclical. I’m probably the worst person to comment on this 180 page Encyclical (I got kicked out of Hebrew School). There is no doubt in my mind that the Pope’s analysis and commentary will definitely affect U.S. politics related to clean energy.

The Rapid Rise of Residential Energy Storage

Energy storage is heralded as the critical technology that will make widespread adoption of renewable energy possible. Storage bottles sunlight, addressing a key drawback to solar energy — that it can’t provide electricity when the sun isn’t shining. Energy storage also cures additional utility ailments from grid resiliency to power smoothing.

France Continues Exploring Energy Storage

French electric utility EDF (Electricité de France) is evaluating use of an advanced Li-ion battery storage system for grid frequency regulation at its Concept Grid Lab. Located south of Paris at EDF’s R&D site in Les Renardières, Seine-et-Marne region, EDF’s Concept Grid Lab is a live power distribution network designed to support, help design and test “bleeding” and cutting-edge smart grid technology.

EDF will be testing the 1-MW Li-ion smart power storage system’s ability to maintain frequency levels on its Concept Grid Lab test grid over the course of about a year.  Alstom and Saft supplied the system. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

The R&D lab enables EDF to subject the storage system to extreme conditions – spikes and troughs in grid frequency well outside the bounds experienced on commercial grids for example, Saft marketing and business development manager Michael Lippert said in an interview.

Using a smart Li-ion battery storage solution to maintain grid frequency levels within required bounds “is quite an innovative and forward-looking,” as well as critical, utility application of the technology in France, as well as in Europe more generally, Lippert pointed out. 

Testing Heats Up at Sandia’s Solar Tower

Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories are working to lower the cost of solar energy systems and improve efficiencies in a big way, thanks to a system of small particles. This month, engineers lifted Sandia’s continuously recirculating falling particle receiver to the top of the tower at theNational Solar Thermal Test Facility,marking the start of first-of-its-kind testing that will continue through 2015. The Sandia-developed falling particle receiver works by dropping sand-like ceramic particles through a beam of concentrated sunlight, capturing and storing the heated particles in an insulated tank. The technology can capture and store heat at high temperatures without breaking down, unlike conventional molten salt systems.

Testing Heats Up at Sandia’s Solar Tower

Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories are working to lower the cost of solar energy systems and improve efficiencies in a big way, thanks to a system of small particles. This month, engineers lifted Sandia’s continuously recirculating falling particle receiver to the top of the tower at theNational Solar Thermal Test Facility,marking the start of first-of-its-kind testing that will continue through 2015. The Sandia-developed falling particle receiver works by dropping sand-like ceramic particles through a beam of concentrated sunlight, capturing and storing the heated particles in an insulated tank. The technology can capture and store heat at high temperatures without breaking down, unlike conventional molten salt systems.

What Is the Value of Solar Energy + Storage?

What’s the true, overall value of combined “behind the meter” energy storage plus solar PV deployment to U.S. power utilities and their customers? That’s the big question facing stakeholders in Hawaii and other U.S. states with a need to integrate fast-growing amounts of solar and renewable energy on to power grids.


A new valuation methodology set out in a report commissioned by the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) and carried out by Clean Power Research offers utilities, grid operators and regulators the means to find out. With Hawaii’s electricity market providing the basis, the IREC-CPR report, “Valuation of Solar + Storage in Hawaii: A Methodology,” fills a gap in the analytic toolkit utilities have at their disposal, IREC and CPR explained in interviews. 


A rough analysis using the valuation methodology indicates the incremental value of adding battery storage capacity to solar PV installations in Hawaii comes in at 10 cents per kWh. Those net capacity added benefits accrue to the utility and rate payers. Costs of 7 cents per kWh, which include the costs of solar and storage losses, are paid for by utility customers who deploy these hybrid systems, CPR’s Ben Norris explained.


While these figures are specific to Hawaii, IREC-CPR’s valuation model can be used to determine the value of solar-plus-storage installations in any state or region, he added. 

‘Snail’s Pace’ in Climate Talks, Weak Pledges Frustrate UN Chief

The secretary general of the United Nations is frustrated with the pace of negotiations for what’s intended to be a crucial agreement limiting global warming.

Climate change pledges submitted so far from the world’s leading economies won’t be enough to keep the planet from warming dangerously, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Monday in New York.

Proposals to reduce heat-trapping emissions need to be “a floor, not a ceiling,” he said.

The global increase in temperatures will exceed 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) under the national pledges already submitted to UN, Ban said. That’s the goal scientists and the UN have set to avoid the worst effects due to global warming.

The proposals submitted to date “will not be enough to place us on a 2-degree pathway,” Ban said.

Without any changes to global emissions, the world is on track to warm by 4 degrees Celsius or more, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Climate Change Janos Pasztor said earlier this month.

World leaders have five months to go before a meeting of almost 200 nations in Paris that’s intended to seal a new global pact to cut planet-warming carbon emissions. If successful, the agreement would be the first ever to require both developed nations like the US and growing economies like China to address climate change.

“The pace of UN negotiations are far too slow,” Ban said. “It’s like a snail’s pace.”

The U.S., the world’s biggest historic source of greenhouse gases, pledged earlier this year to cut its emissions by as much as 28 percent by 2025. The European Union has promised a 40 percent cut by 2030. Several other major economies, including Australia and Japan, have yet to submit climate plans to the UN.

Battery Second Use Offsets Electric Vehicle Expenses, Improves Grid Stability

Plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) have the potential to dramatically drive down consumption of carbon-based fuels and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but the relatively high price of these vehicles — due in large part to the cost of batteries — has presented a major impediment to widespread market penetration. Researchers at the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) are playing a crucial role in identifying battery second use (B2U) strategies capable of offsetting vehicle expenses while improving utility grid stability.

Innovating Today for the Homes of Tomorrow

Shaping our energy future into one that is efficient, reliable, affordable, and sustainable is a significant undertaking. Much of this effort is focused around the energy industry, utilities, and power grids—which can seem intangible to the average consumer. But the performance and integration of the homes we all live in is a critical part of solving national energy challenges.

Renewable Energy Responsible for First Ever Carbon Emissions Stabilization

Carbon emissions in 2014 remained at the previous year’s levels of 32.3 billion metric tons — a milestone that points to the impact worldwide renewable energy investment is having in the face of a 1.5 percent annual increase in global energy consumption, according to a new report from REN21. The tenth annual Renewables 2015 Global Status Report cites “increased penetration of renewable energy” and improvements in energy efficiency as the chief reasons for the noted emissions stabilization.

How New York is Using Local Power & Microgrids To Transform the State

New York’s antiquated infrastructure was in trouble long before hurricane Sandy. The bulk power system, designed to meet a peak demand 75 percent higher than most of America, is underutilized most of the day. New Yorkers have been paying some of the highest electrical bills in the nation, so that air conditioners have power during the hottest summer days. Hurricane Sandy revealed the vulnerabilities of the low-lying Atlantic state’s grid. Governor Andrew Cuomo’s response is a plan calling for New York’s statewide adoption of community utilities, or Community Choice Aggregation (CCA).

“This is the most innovative energy initiative to come from a state level, and a governor, in the United States. California has a very ambitious renewable portfolio standard and ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets, but no plan to get there. New York is taking the bull by the horns around the need for localization to deliver the change. This is something that has been lacking in states that set targets for adopting percentages of renewable energy, but tend to be blind to the location of the energy,” said Paul Fenn, President of Local Power, Inc.    

Around 9 percent of New York’s electricity is lost, every year, because it originates from distant power plants. Transmission lines are full of power that travels hundreds of miles before being used.

This causes problems at the substations where streams of electricity converge. (There can be so much traffic on the line that substations sometimes overheat, or equipment might fail anywhere along hundreds of miles of transmission lines, causing blackouts or brownouts in entire regions.)

When hurricane Sandy struck, the whole grid went down for days and some areas did not get power back online for months following the storm – and the power markets responded by doubling rates for the Winter – a major economic blow throughout the state.

New York’s solution is for local communities to form their own utilities that utilize local power sources and the most cutting-edge smart technologies available. Fenn calls this CCA 2.0 (Community Choice Aggregation 2.0).

Fenn is one of the founders of the CCA movement, co-authoring America’s first landmark CCA bill in 1994 as well as similar laws throughout the U.S., drafting a CCA 2.0 law for California that passed in 2002.

His company, Local Power Inc, worked with a local group in Hudson Valley, New York called “Citizens for Local Power” to author New York’s CCA legislation in 2014.

Governor Cuomo took the initiative in February, bypassing the legislature and ordering state regulators to develop CCA in New York as a statewide platform for municipalities to develop Distributed Energy Resources and expand choice for all customers. CCA, a key component of the Governor’s “Reforming the Energy Vision” proceeding with state regulators, will mainstream micro-grids and advanced on-site power technologies for enhanced local energy resilience and better deals for small customers in a deregulated electricity market, traditionaly focused on serving large customers that has not traditionally served most businesses and residents.

One of the key questions confronting New Yorkwas, how do you give utilities a role without allowing them to distort the path of technology development? The answer was to create a firewall, so that utilities will not be allowed to own sources of distributed generation.

Fenn said that while solar is always popular with activists, communities need to develop the energy sources that are most applicable to their local situation.

He added that many of the confrontations around renewable energy development that we see throughout North America arise because of the lack of local control. Industrial scale fossil fuel  – and renewable – projects are being imposed on rural communities, who usually derive little benefit. The energy, and profits, go elsewhere. Local governments are left with the problems.

CCAs enable communities to take control. They can choose the power sources they want, develop local resources and have a vested interest in seeing that problems are resolved.

“Being municipalities, they also possess tools and authorities that are needed to develop distributed energy resources on existing buildings in dense urban areas. They own public rights of way and sidewalks, control zoning and permitting of development activities, and are the traditional planner and developer of the built environment,” said Fenn.

Four New York communities have already opted to form their own CCAs. Though the state has not completed the regulations, many with CCA 2.0 implicitly requested local green jobs and economic development. They are also changing their business model to let communities control, and customers, own significant parts of their power. 

Listen Up: Charging Your Electric Vehicle

Electric vehicles are great: they’re affordable, great for the environment and low maintenance. And where electric rates are low — or if you have rooftop solar power — EVs are cheaper to drive per mile than gas-powered cars. But you have to think about how you will charge your EV: there are only a few thousand public charging locations in the U.S. compared to 100,000 gas stations.